Posted on July 6, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago Cubs are not waiting until after the all-star break to bring back Kyle Schwarber. With just four games left before the break, the Cubs are poised to recall Schwarber prior to Thursday’s game against the Brewers. To make room for Schwarber, the Cubs are placing starter John Lackey on the 10-day DL.
The Cubs demoted Schwarber to triple-A on June 22 amidst a dreadful season. On the season, Schwarber has smashed 12 home runs for the Cubs in just 64 games. However, he’s also hitting just .171, which is far from ideal for a hitter who spent most of the season in the leadoff spot for Chicago.
The Cubs never intended to keep Schwarber in the minors for long, and his time in triple-A appears to have served him well. In 11 games at triple-A, Schwarber is hitting .343 with four home runs, posting an OPS of 1.192. After two weeks in the minors, the Cubs are now comfortable enough with Schwarber’s progress to bring him back to the big leagues. In fact, Cubs manager Joe Maddon says is considering putting Schwarber back in the leadoff spot right away.
“I find no connection between his struggles and where he was hitting in the batting order — it’s just that he was struggling. He was just missing his pitch. He was not trying to be any kind of different hitter, he was not trying to do anything differently. He was just not hitting,” Maddon told reporters Wednesday. “I would not be concerned with putting him back there, it just depends on what he looks like when he gets back.”
If Schwarber doesn’t hit upon his return to Chicago, there may be no guarantee that he earns regular playing time or avoids another demotion. Jon Jay has played regularly in left field over the last two weeks and has performed well. Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist are also options in left field for what could be a rather crowded outfield with Schwarber coming back. But the Cubs wouldn’t bring him back unless they thought he was ready to succeed.
“He’s feeling really good,” Cubs farm director Jaron Madison said earlier this week. “His swing’s way more balanced. He feels like he’s pretty close to where he wants to be.”
Meanwhile, the Cubs sending Lackey to the 10-day DL appears mostly procedural. With Lackey starting on Wednesday and the all-star break approaching, he can spend 10 days on the DL without missing a start. That being said, Lackey is dealing with plantar fasciitis, which can be a painful condition, especially for a pitcher. He’s also struggled immensely this season compared to his performance in recent years. In 17 starts, Lackey is 5-9 with a 5.20 ERA.
Lackey and the Cubs are hopeful that an extended rest around the all-star break can help ease his plantar fasciitis. Nevertheless, Lackey going on the DL gives the Cubs three injured starters, joining Brett Anderson and Kyle Hendricks. Chicago’s rotation has been in large part disappointing this season, and so the Cubs need a healthy and effective Lackey during the second half of the season.
The Cubs began Thursday with a .500 record and 3.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. Chicago is even further behind in the wild-card race, so the Cubs may need to win their division to reach the postseason. The Cubs are going to need both Schwarber and Lackey to make that happen. On Thursday, one is returning for the second half and the other is starting to rest up for the second half.